History was made on Saturday 16 September 2017, when the Southern Kings played host to Irish club, Leinster, in the first ever Guinness Pro14 match to be played on South African soil. The Kings came into the match after previously losing their first two Pro14 matches 57-10 and 32-10 against the defending champions, Scarlets, and Connacht respectively.
The conditions on the day seemed to favour the Irish visitors, as the cold and wet weather is synonymous with the Emerald Isle. Despite the cool conditions, the early afternoon kick-off promised to be an exciting first outing in South Africa for the tourists, as the Kings had a lot to prove at home.
The Kings started strong, attacking the visitor’s line with purpose. Leinster were the first to concede points after giving away a penalty for offsides. Masixole Banda slotted the kick through the uprights and the hosts took a 3-0 lead after three minutes of play.
The visitors would not be kept out for much longer, however, as Noel Reid crashed over the line after a number of phases of good possession for Leinster. Ross Byrne added the extra two from around 15 meters infield, taking the Irishmen to a 3-7 lead over the Kings.
Halfway through the first half, the Kings looked like they would surely score after a brilliant set move off of the lineout. It was not to be however, as the final pass went forward, and Leinster managed to clear the danger. The Kings continued to attack the Leinster line for the remainder of the half, however were unable to convert pressure into points due to poor handling and solid defense.
The halftime hooter sounded as the Kings attempted to kick the ball out. The kick was charged down by the visitors, however the Kings were ultimately able to force Leinster to knock the ball on. At halftime, the Kings trailed by 3-7 against Leinster.
The visitors came out firing in the second half, building up good possession in the Kings’ 22m. The first score of the second half came shortly after kickoff thorugh Leinster centre, Rory O’Loughlin, who muscled through the Kings’ defenders to score out wide. Byrne missed the conversion, resulting in Leinster going out to a 3-12 lead over the hosts after just four minutes in the second half.
Leinster scored again quickly after the restart, through big no. 8, Jack Conan. Conan busted his way through two defenders to dive over the line after building up phases from a 5m lineout on the Kings’ line. Byrne made no mistake this time in converting the score and the visitors pulled out to a 3-19 lead with half an hour still to play.
The Kings began to look under pressure as they started to leak tries easily. Joey Carbery dove over the line in the corner after yet another 5m lineout in Kings’ territory. Byrne converted the difficult kick and suddenly Leinster looked to be in a comfortable 3-26 lead over the Southern Kings.
Some solid possession for the Kings in Leinster’s half was turned around after Reid intercepted the ball after a scrum. The Kings managed to chase him down, but a few phases later, Carbery looked to have scored his second try of the day. The referee however called play back for a knock-on earlier in the play, and the scores remained Kings 3-26 Leinster.
The home side started to gain some solid possession in the Leinster half around halfway through the second half. After earning a number of penalties and a few near tries, the Kings constantly lost possession through knocking the ball on in promising phases of play.
In contrast to the Kings, Leinster looked to capitalize on every opportunity. After defending for a number of phases, Leinster gained a lineout inside the Kings’ half, resulting in Dave Kearney crossing over after a well-worked set move. Cathal Marsh missed the conversion from the touchline, and the visitors led by 3-31 as the match entered the final ten minutes.
The Kings finally got their first try with four minutes left on the clock, after a brilliant run from Burton Klaasen allowed Jacques Nel to run in for the touchdown under the posts. Ntabeni Dukisa slotted the easy conversion, and the Kings drew the cores back to 10-31 near the end of the match.
The visitors got one last opportunity to extend their lead in the eightieth minute with an attacking scrum. They managed to crash their way over the line, however Leinster were held up in goal. The final whistle blew and Leinster were awarded a 10-31 victory over the Southern Kings.
Tries: Jacques Nel
Conversions: Ntabeni Dukisa
Penalties: Masixole Banda
Tries: Noel Reid, Rory O’Loughlin, Jack Conan, Joey Carbery, Dave Kearney
Conversions: Ross Byrne x3